At Heber Valley temple open house, future neighbors want answers
A neighborhood meeting about a future temple near Heber City gave neighbors a glimpse at how the building will look. Some attendees said what they’ve learned so far concerns them.
For the first time, Wasatch County residents got a look at designs for the Heber Valley temple, including some rooms inside. Display boards showed ornate halls and a plan with 461 parking spaces surrounding the future 88,000-square-foot building, which will stand 196 feet high at its highest point.
Tuesday night, hundreds turned out for a gathering at the local meeting house across the street from the planned temple, after the church invited members and neighbors.
The temple, which was announced in 2021 and had a groundbreaking ceremony last October, is planned for 1400 E. Center St., an empty 18-acre lot near the Triple Crown and Red Ledges neighborhoods.
Triple Crown resident Creighton Lowe is a realtor with history in Heber and Midway. He attended the meeting and said he was impressed with some of the plans to mitigate traffic impacts near his home.
He also said that just like in Daybreak, Draper, Payson and other areas, neighbors can expect the temple to change things.
“Overall, it will improve the values of the neighborhood, probably not as much as the emotional value for some spiritual members,” Lowe said. “There will be some people that I've talked to that want to sell, like ‘Screw this, get me out of here. I do not want to stare at some massive structure that wasn't supposed to be there.’”
He said his experience with temples dates back to his upbringing in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He went through the endowment process in the temple, which means bestowed a blessing by making commitments there. He also served on a mission and now belongs to the neighborhood congregation, though he said he doesn’t practice as seriously anymore.
While he acknowledged the temple’s spiritual value, he also said he expected Red Ledges residents to take issue with the design.
“Especially people in Red Ledges that moved here for the view of the mountains; they don't want to stare at a big 200-foot structure that’s right on their front door,” he said. “So, there'll be some people that will sell and there'll be some people that will buy, more people that’ll buy and want to be near it than there will that want to get away from it.”
Red Ledges resident Ralph Wood said he hoped the LDS Church might still consider building the temple elsewhere, like on the hills next to U.S. Highway 40. But none of the church officials he talked to made that sound likely.
“As I look around the gymnasium here, there are a lot of Red Ledges and other communities represented here that are very concerned that a very large, bright edifice is being built without really consulting anybody first,” Wood said. “They basically bought the land and said, ‘This is the way it's gonna be.’ And, quite frankly, I don't think they're listening to any of the concerns of the citizens.”
Bruce Quade, another Red Ledges resident with a home very near the lot, agreed. He called it “exclusionary,” that the temple won’t allow him and other non-members of the church inside.
He also said he’s concerned that the church is seeking to change county lighting rules to allow lights to shine on its walls at night.
In late 2022, the church applied to change county code to allow uplighting during limited night hours, as well as exceptions under conditional use permits.
Curtis Miner, one of the architects working on the temple, said Tuesday that he expected to bring that up in a planning commission meeting on March 30. However, the county website doesn’t show a meeting scheduled for that day, and county staff didn’t respond to KPCW’s request for confirmation.
Legally, several meetings are required to change lighting code, including a county council meeting at which the council would vote on any code change.
Like many others at the open house Tuesday, Quade said much is unclear about what will happen next. He just hopes elected officials hold the church to the same standard they would any other entity.
“You either have policies and the church has to follow them or they don’t, and it seems a little bit up in the air right now whether exceptions will be granted,” Quade said.
According to Sam Penrod, a media relations manager for the church, one of the purposes of the meeting was to fulfill a promise made to neighbors before the church submits official building applications.
This is a developing story. KPCW will continue to provide updates as they become available.